Seeing the movie last night has got me thinking about birth, and I read Jonas’ birth story for the first time since shortly after his birth. I’m so glad that I captured the experience through writing. Some moments are so clearly in my mind, andof course I will never forget the emotional experience, but so many events get lost with time.
Jonas Gregory arrived at 9:48 am on Thursday, June 29th, the day before he was due. Things didn’t go exactly as we hoped, though we still had a really good experience overall.
I woke up at 6:30 am on Wednesday the 28th, and I was pretty sure I was in early labor at that time. I was having contractions that weren’t going away when I got up, and they felt different than the cramps I’d been having for the previous five evenings. They were coming pretty consistently at about 7 minutes apart from the beginning. When I went to the bathroom, I found that I had lost my mucous plug. I felt sure that this was the day. So I called Jan to let her know, and I went about my day while the contractions were still easy. I had Ben come home around 2 when I knew that things were going to continue getting stronger. I would say I was in active labor by about 3:00 or 3:30. Mom and Dad drove up that afternoon, and my midwife, Jan, was at the house by 5pm.
Leaning over a table and rocking my hips in a circular motion worked well for me when the contractions came. I also found myself moaning through them, which helped to keep my mouth and throat relaxed, which in turn helped the rest of me stay relaxed. Once Jan got the pool set up, I spent a lot of time laboring there which felt really good. The water took so much weight off of my body and encouraged my muscles to let go – though looking back, I feel I should have been able to relax more thoroughly. Ben spent a lot of time in the pool with me, applying counterpressure to my back. Labor progressed fairly slowly, though my contractions were strong and long – they were about 2 minutes in length before I ever got to transition.
Unfortunately, I had horrible back labor through the whole thing, though Jonas wasn’t posterior. Perhaps he had his hands by his head or something. Anyway, I had heard that back labor was awful, but oh my goodness! I hardly even felt the contractions in my belly because my back hurt so much. When Christy, Jan’s assistant, arrived late in the night, we tried a sterile water injection in my back, which often relieves the back pain, but it didn’t work for me, and it burned sooo badly for a couple minutes – like someone was holding a curling iron to my back.
So, progress was rather slow. I was stuck around 6-7 cm for a long time, his head was decending nicely, and around 2am Jan asked if I wanted her to break the water. I thought it was a good idea since his head was already down so far – no risk of cord prolapse – and I felt that it would probably help things kick in more strongly since the baby’s head would be right there on my cervix. So, I said yes. But I continued to dilate slowly, and after some more time passed, Jan began becoming concerned because Jonas’ heart tones were dropping with some of the stronger contractions. At 5:30 am, she told me that she thought we needed to go to the hospital because of this. I was beginning to have a strong urge to push because his head was so low, and the whole car ride was scary because I was trying so hard not to push as I was laying in the backseat, and I was realizing that there was probably a pretty good chance I’d end up with a c-section because he was in some amount of distress and I wasn’t ready to push, no matter how much I wanted to.
When we got to the hospital though, his heart was fine, so thankfully, they pretty much left me alone to continue laboring as I wanted. I don’t even remember all that much of the hospital labor because things were so intense and I was still trying not to push because I was still only 7 cm. I know I was sitting on a birthing ball at the end of the bed with my torso draped over some pillows, and I remember Ben and my parents encouraging me, though their voices seemed to come from another place. I was there for quite some time until they checked me again, at which time I stayed in the bed and labored on my side.
Finally, I had finished dilating – no concept of time as far as how long I was laboring in the bed before I could start pushing. Unfortunately, I was so exhausted by this time and feeling a bit disconnected, I stayed on my back instead of getting into a better pushing position. My midwife did stand at the end of the bed, grasping my hands, and we were pulling against each other, so I think that helped a bit, but I wish I was more upright. When I was pushing, his heart tones started dropping significantly again. I only got to push for about 30 minutes before my doctor told me that she wanted to do a vacuum extraction because he really needed to come out. So, he ended up being pulled into the world. I, of course, had to have an episiotomy because of the vacuum, which is less than pleasant, though in the grand scheme of things, I know it’s no big deal. She did a medio-lateral cut instead of the straight back one because with the amount of pressure on the perineum from the pulling, there was too much of a chance of damaging the rectal muscles. The medio-lateral cut goes through more muscles, but in this case, I’m glad she did it this way.
The last minutes were a bit of a blur. I just remember feeling the burn of his head being right there, and still kinda wondering if I would ever get him out, and then he was there. They put him on my chest and we checked and found out that we had a little boy. When the blood was gone from the cord, my mom cut it. I got to keep him most of the time the doctor was stitching me up. Ben went with as the nurses cleaned him up on the other side of the room, and then I got him back and was able to feed him.
The doctor told me that he was born with his cord wrapped around his shoulders and arms like a shawl. I suspect that is what was causing his distress – the cord being squeezed between me and his shoulders during contractions. I really believe that if I would have decided against having my waters broken, we probably would have had him at home – at least if the bag had continued to stay intact. He would have been so much more protected. If that is the case, it’s amazing that such a seemingly minor intervention had such a large impact on Jonas’ birth. It makes me even more aware of how important choices are, and will make me think twice before making such decisions next time.